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Ecocide: Ajka, Hungary, October 2010. 'Red sludge' alumina plant accident. Photo: Ministry of Public Administration and Justice / Wikimedia Commons.
Ecocide: Ajka, Hungary, October 2010. 'Red sludge' alumina plant accident. Photo: Ministry of Public Administration and Justice / Wikimedia Commons.
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Outlaw ecocide!

Joselyn Morton

16th January 2014

End Ecocide has just days left in which to gather 1 million signatures from across Europe. Joselyn Morton urges all Ecologists to sign - and force the European Commission to progress the initiative.

Once ecocide becomes a crime it means that those people in top jobs who are the decision-makers, can be convicted and go to prison.

The core team of End Ecocide in Europe, led by Prisca Merz, are working around the clock. Less than a week is left before the European Commission deadline to reach 1 million signatures.

For a group of unpaid volunteers, without any funding or sponsorships, it could be viewed as a Herculean task - an impossible mission from hell. Across Europe, it is count-down time.

Mind-bending requirements

There are mind-bending requirements. In seven EU countries a minimum number of signatures must be obtained. The team take it in their stride, grit their teeth and brainstorm on who else can be approached with the least amount of effort for the most amount of votes.

"Anyone got an 'in' to the Pope?" He has been quoted as saying: "Pope says Nope to fracking and mega-mining. Not on Planet Earth."

So far they have many heavy-weight well-known supporters from the worlds of science, law, economics and politics. What they don't have is the General Public, whom they need to reach their target figure.

Maybe this will change. The glamorous environmentalist fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood has come on board. At her Press Conference on HMS President on the River Thames yesterday, she explained why Ecocide must be criminalised.

"Our financial rulers and the politicians who help them are playing a giant game of Monopoly with the world's finite resources - completely abstracted from reality - even though they accept the facts of Climate Change. But you can't play Monopoly when everybody's dead. They imagine they'll be the last people. They don't care so long as they win." 

The missing fifth crime against peace

Ecocide is the term for serious destruction to the environment - to nature. Simply put, it is damage to the air we breathe, the water we drink; the rivers and oceans we love to swim and fish in. It is also the serious destruction of the countryside we love to stroll in, the mountains, hills, rivers, forests and seas.

It is devilishly hard to re-create a ancient forest or a mountain top that has been trashed by mining. The earth has enough slag heaps and ugly quarries. Ecocide is aleady a crime - in war-time but not in peace. We drew the line at Napalm, and Agent Orange, eventually. Now it is time to draw some more lines.

In 2010 lawyer Polly Higgins submitted her proposal to the UN Law Commission to include ecocide, the missing 5th crime against peace, into the Rome Statute. In 2012, the Citizens initiative took up the cudgels.

Prison - a real deterrent

Once ecocide becomes a crime it means that those people in top jobs who are the decision-makers, can be convicted and go to prison. That should create a deterrent.

At the moment, when there is a serious oil spill, which contaminates an area and destroys the wild life, the company gets fined. For multinationals whose budget is bigger than that of a small country, that's not a deterrent. They simply pay out of their massive profits.

However if these high-flying CEO's are sent to prison, it would deter others from getting involved in businesses whose negligence causes widespread destruction to ecosystems.

This proposed Ecocide legislation has been drafted to include activities in other parts of the world outside of Europe which are funded by European entities. This would make it a very powerful law indeed.

It would mean that any deforestation going on in Brazil or the building of dams, causing the destruction of human habitation and existing ecosystems which was financed from Europe - would be illegal. The bankers who put the deal together would go to jail.

Whose side are they on?

The End Ecocide volunteers are a brave bunch to front-up to the these powerful multinationals. It is not a good career path for highly-intelligent, highly-educated young academics, as many of them are. They may be reckless with their own time and career chances, but they care about the earth and their fellow citizens.

Is the European Commission even on their side? After all the purpose of the EU is to "strengthen the Member States competitiveness and increase employment, investing in business development". Luckily, it is also to "protect and enhance the environment" but when these two factors are at odds, which one is the EU likely to support?

My bet is that they will side with big business, unless pressure to brought to bear by 1 million European citizens - so get signing.

Evidently, many sympathisers have not been signing because the European Commission form was not very user-friendly - it requires a date-of-birth and a UK address; this is a legal requirement for the EU. Therefore, I appeal to those hesitant-signers - reconsider, 'sign'; it is in your best interests.

End the devastation ...

Across the globe, Governments have been in the pocket of Big Business for a very long time. When is this likely to change? What will it take? We have had Thalidomide births, Chernobyl, mad cow disease, Bhopal, Fukushima, the fracking boom ...

Fracking is a devastating practice. Anyone who has watched the documentary Gasland will know why - the countryside becomes barren. The people who were sucked into leasing their land to the fracking companies were suffering serious health complaints including cancer.

This week, anti-fracking protestors around England are out in force after the PM David Cameron announced some sly dealings with Local Councils. Looks like the present British Government is prepared to turn 'the green and pleasant land' into a barren unpleasant one.

End Ecocide: a European Citizens' Initiative

The word 'citizens' still has a ring of innocence to it. So the current situation is one of citizens across Europe banding or bonding together and lining up against big business - and its big bonuses, fat cat bankers, enormous yachts and private jets.

Citizens are suffering from low minimum wages, cost-cutting to council budgets which causes library and child care closures. Often this means they are too tired and stressed to worry about anything except making ends meet.

End Ecocide has just a few days in which to grab the public's attention and get them to add their signature to this Citizens' Initiative - until 21st January. Vivienne Westwood is a great attention-grabber from way-back, but she can't do this on her own.

Russell Brand where are you?

If other high-profile, environmentally aware citizens such as Bianca Jagger, Yoko Ono and that original love-him-or-hate him philosophising thinker and chatterer Russell Brand were to come on board (with all their followers) End Ecocide would be more than in the loop.

We would be in the running to restrict the 'big guys' asset-stripping our planet of its precious natural resources. Not necessarily stopping them but putting in place a law making them legally liable if they seriously damage the environment: a great step forward to protect everybody's green and pleasant land.

 


 

Joselyn Morton is a campaigner with End Ecocide in Europe; a freelance journalist; a casting director in theatre, television and film;and producer of the small theatre company 'Ocean Productions'. She also has an ecologist son, a micro-biologist grandson and some young grandchildren whose world needs protecting.

 

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